Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Building Community in Ferguson; the Killing of Michael Brown - FERGUSON POLICE SHOOTING

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Building Community in Ferguson; the Killing of Michael Brown - FERGUSON POLICE SHOOTING

Article excerpt

The people of Ferguson and the police department are a society divided by a single word: property.

When the police went into full riot gear and started to lock down sections of Ferguson, their motives were simple: law and order must be preserved, and property, like the QuikTrip gas station, must be protected from looters.

But the real problem driving the destruction, looting and other forms of violence in Ferguson is not property ownership, but "self- ownership" individual autonomy and freedom. Not only is self- ownership a fundamental human right, it is the critical component for building strong communities.

Ferguson is clearly broken: An average of three warrants are issued per Ferguson household by the police department each year. This is evidence of an adversarial relationship between the police and residents. Ferguson is like the rest of Missouri, where 24 percent of African-Americans have been convicted of a felony, which disqualifies them from voting. Even those that are allowed to vote turn out at only 12 percent for municipal elections.

Furthermore, nearly 95 percent of police officers are white and from other surrounding communities few are from Ferguson, a town that is only 29 percent white. Twenty-five percent of the city's revenue comes from traffic citations, prompting a local public defender to argue that most people see the city as targeting its citizens to raise revenue, not to "serve and protect" them.

This recipe includes none of the ingredients for strong community institutions or the individual cooperation necessary to build them. The people of Ferguson have been stripped of self-ownership under the strong hand of harsh law enforcement and heavy fines by, what they perceive as, an occupying force. It is no wonder that Ferguson ended up in this state, given the path it has taken.

What Ferguson needs are institutions that support cooperation, including a police force made up of more people who live in the community in order to overcome the current us vs. …

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